18 English Words You Should Use With Caution (When in Ang Mo Countries)

Here are 18 English words that have a slightly different meaning in Singapore. These words should be used with caution when travelling to English speaking countries.

Part 2 can be found here

1. Stone

Singlish Meaning:

Conveying either a lack of any activity, a state of stupor or stunned bewilderment. While it may owe its origins to it, the local use of the term seems to lack any connection with drug-use.

English Meaning:

A state of mind which occurs after smoking enough marijuana to the point where the user stares blankly into whatever catches his/her attention, and giggles.

If you say you are stoned in the UK or the USA you may be hassled for some weed.


2. Stay

Singlish Meaning:

To live (in a place). From Malay “tinggal”. – “My grandmother, my aunt and uncle also stay next door.”

English Meaning:

Live somewhere temporarily as a visitor or guest. Live is permanent – if you live somewhere, that place is your home, that is where all your things are. If you go away on holiday or on a business trip, you will stay somewhere, most likely a hotel. 

You go on vacation and stay at a hotel, but you live in Tampines.

3. Spoilt

Singlish Meaning:

Broken down. From the Malay word ‘rosak’, which means both ‘broken’ (computer, door etc) and ‘spoilt’ with regards to food.

English Meaning:

1. To ruin. For example: ‘She spoilt the movie by telling us the ending’.
2. To pamper. For example: ‘That boy is so spoilt. His parents buy him everything he asks for’.
3. (Of food) To go off or become bad. For example: ‘That food will spoil if you leave it out’.

Toys break; equipment gets damaged; but food spoils and children are spoilt

4. Send

Singlish Meaning:

To take (i.e. drive) somebody somewhere – “I’ll send you home”.

English Meaning:

Send – cause to go or be taken to a destination. “Send” is used when something (or someone) goes away from you, but you don’t go alongWhen you send a letter, you don’t get into the mailbox and go with it.

Be careful, the assumed ending to the phrase “I’ll send you home”, is one of the following:

  • “in an ambulance”
  • “in a body bag”
  • “in little pieces”


5. Last time

Singlish Meaning:

Any event previously, in the past – “Last time, in kampong, we are very poor.

English Meaning:

“Last time” refers to a specific occurrence of something, not something that happened long ago, nor something that happened continually in the past. It cannot refer to a general time in the past. For that we use “previously” or “in the past”. For example, “Last time in class we studied algebra”.

If you said “Last time Romans wore shorts”, you are obviously a time traveling Time Lord. 


6. Keep

Singlish Meaning:

Put in order or tidy up. For example “Keep your books” (which means “put your books away”)

English Meaning:

To hold or retain in one’s possession as one’s own. “Please keep the mats” (Take the mats away, you now own them)

Don’t be surprised if someone takes, whatever you asked them to ‘keep’, away with them.

7. Help

Singlish Meaning:

Do something for someone else. “Can you help post these letters” (which means “Can you post these letters”)

English Meaning:

‘Help’ in this form is to give aid or assistance. “Could you help me carry this table.”

The casual phrase “can you help me buy…” or “can you help post these letters” would seem a little strange in native English speaking countries. This sounds like you need assistance or aid, rather than you need someone to do something for you.

If you asked someone to help you buy water, they would think you were unable to perform the task on your own and need assistance in simple shopping transactions.

8. Follow

Singlish Meaning:

To accompany or go with someone. “You follow me” (which means “You can come along with me”)

English Meaning:

To go after someone, to proceed behind or to come after as in pursuit of.

If you said “I’ll follow you”, this would imply that you will walk behind them like a mad stalker.

Keep, Follow, and Help misuse explained 

More Words and Phrases


Word / Phrase

Singlish Meaning:

English Meaning:

9. Bath / Bathe“Go and take your bath! Or “Go and bathe”. To mean go take a shower.To have a bath or bathe in a bathtub.
10. BoringPeople use boring instead of bored. “I think you are boring”To say someone is boring or you are boring has negative connotations regarding personality (uninteresting person).
11. BungalowA detached two or three story home.A type of single-storey house
12. MarketingWhen we go to the market or
Marketing is used to describe what companies do when they promote a product
13. Off dayA day when people do not go to workA day in which you are not at your normal level of performance
14. OutstationWhen you are out of town, or away overseas.You are going off to a station in a remote or sparsely populated location.
15. Pass UpTo give in something to someone. Example “Pass up your homework”Pass up is used when talking about chances or offers to do something
16. RevertReply. “Revert to me at this address.”To regress or go back to a former condition. “Revert to me” literally means they are asking you to become them.
17. TakenTo eat; to have a meal – “Have you taken your lunch?”Taken my lunch where?
18. You know how to eat?Do you eat this kind of dish, and do you like to eat it?Do you know the method or art of eating (e.g. open mouth, insert food, chew, and swallow)?


  1. Chris Tan20/06/2014

    "Toilet" in North America has a very different meaning. In Singapore (and England) it refers to the room where you go for "wash" or "rest". In North America, it refers to the throne itself upon which the "business" is accomplished. The room is called the "washroom" (Canada) or the "restroom" (US). So telling a Canadian that you are going to the toilet for a quick drink of water has serious ramifications :).

  2. Chris Tan20/06/2014

    Meantime, keep 'em coming. This is very good and funny!

  3. Shijia Lee20/06/2014

    a very good one. just like how i am juggling over singapore chinese, taiwanese chinese and chinese chinese which many people knew how i sucks in mandarin but trust me, i bet i am so much better than you now. yesssh, i went to korea and learn chinese. laugh my ass

  4. Bella Roderica Sctiz20/06/2014


  5. Chris Tan20/06/2014

    Bella Roderica Sctiz It happened to a Canadian friend who was in London with his friend from there. She commented that she had forgotten to take her meds and should go to the toilet to get some water for that. My Canadian friend was freaked out!

  6. Ian Lau21/06/2014

    How is "mugging"not on this list? That one's a classic especially for overseas students!

  7. Angmohdan21/06/2014

    You're right :) I'll have to action. Thanks for the recommendation.

  8. Ian Lau21/06/2014

    And @angmohdan don't forget "smoking". Like in Singlish when we say, "he's just smoking, he doesn't know the answer". =)

  9. Ang Yun-Xuan Ashley22/06/2014

    don't forget mug.

    I'm going to go mugging tonight.
    Singapore: I'm going to studying really hard tonight.
    U.S.A: I'm going to rob somebody on the street tonight

  10. Angmohdan23/06/2014

    Thanks Ashley :)

  11. What about "blur?"

    Singlish: "Blur" (similar to "stone") refers to one's obliviousness to a certain situation. "Sorry I got you Mee Goreng instead of Mee Siam, I'm very blur right now."
    English: "Blur" refers to the distortion of vision or a hampered memory. "I can't remember how many drinks I bought at Zouk last night; it's all such a blur."

  12. Angmohdan27/06/2014

    Thanks Michael. Part 2 coming soon :)

  13. Sourav Roy20/04/2015

    One should have started this list with the almost inevitable Singlish word 'Can'. When my wife and i moved down to Singapore, every request of ours was being met with a 'can' instead of a 'yes'. We were wondering why and what for do we need a can ( something that one uses to fill water or any other liquid) :) :) So, remember your 'can' might not work elsewhere :)

  14. Dawn Newman13/07/2015

    Ian Lau In the US, if a person doesn't know the answer but is trying to fake it, we might say, "He's just blowing smoke."

  15. […] AMD Pronunciation Studio: 18 English Words You Should Use With Caution (When in Ang Mo Countries) – Global Citizen: Singapore is about more than chewing gum – Vulcan Post: 10 […]


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